As you have no doubt heard, a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti near her capital of Port-Au-Prince on Tuesday afternoon. It was the strongest earthquake to hit Haiti since 1770, and two of its aftershocks were nearly as intense.
The damage is horrific, and has only worsened in the wake of the aftershocks. Haiti's centers of government, national and international, have in many instances been leveled. Hospitals are overflowing, and the country simply does not have the capacity to respond to the sheer volume of need.
Estimates of the death toll from Haiti's leaders have ranged from 100,000 to 500,000, though the damage is too severe to project accurately. One thing is certain: the loss is sure to be astronomical.
Accounts and photographs have poured in, showing the world the extent of this tragedy. Haitian President René Préval recounted, "Parliament has collapsed. The tax office has collapsed. Schools have collapsed. Hospitals have collapsed. There are a lot of schools that have a lot of dead people in them.''
The Red Cross estimates that over 3 million people, a third of Haiti's population, may need immediate emergency assistance. In the face of such need, the Red Cross has already run out of medical supplies. More are on the way, but no one knows when they will arrive, or how many they will be too late to save.
President Préval has asked the world for medical assistance, saying Haiti lacks the capacity to hospitalize the wounded.
In response to this devastating natural disaster, President Obama has order a Marine Expeditionary Unit, consisting of approximately 1,100 United States Marines, to provide humanitarian assistance and security as attempts to bring in outside aid increase in the coming days and weeks.
However, each of us should not simply take solace in the fact that some of our men and women in uniform are being deployed to provide relief -- we should all join the rescue effort. Each able American should find a way to help bring relief to a nation that is facing a dire situation which will only worsen without significant and immediate aid.
So this week I am going to ask that you to help the Haitian recovery effort in some way, whether it is a direct donation or even volunteering to help collect funds for one of the charities listed below. Together, we can help make a difference for a nation where thousands of parents have been separated from their children and will not know for weeks or longer if those children have even survived this tragedy.